This film came out in 2010 and asks one question: Why are today’s youth apparently so apathetic?
This is a good question. People today have more access than ever before to information about what is going on in the rest of the world, including the issue of people making their household goods in slave-like conditions. Why aren’t they angrier about it?
The film takes a US-centric, or at least First World-centric view of the question, using the War in Iraq as its main example, and how there wasn’t any serious organised opposition to it, however it’s more general than that. The film-makers believe today’s youth are unmotivated to get up and do much about any of the world’s ills.
It identifies two major reasons:
The first is, or was, Television which today includes any form of passive media consumption in which marketing messages are pushed at us.
So that’s not just broadcast Television but also time-wasters such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the devices on which they come to us: computer, tablet and smartphone.
The film puts the case that these forms of media all deaden our sense of outrage or motivation to effect change. For a start, they present the news in a sanitised manner. The film briefly makes this point by showing the real death of one single person in Iraq. It takes less than a second of screen time but it was a very shocking and upsetting image. You just don’t get that on TV. Then there’s the fact that the internet gives us access to *all* the world’s problems, which can be overwhelming and make any attempt to create a positive impact seem hopeless.
One interviewee commented that the mass media also keeps us in the ‘now’, whereas schooling at least gives young people a sense of history and context. But teaching, as one teacher admits in exasperation, is no match for all the colour and movement of the consumer society.
(I wonder how this would have been nuanced had the film been made just one year later, in 2011. It would be impossible to say nothing about the use of social media in the Arab Spring)
Anyway schooling brings us to the second major cause, which is Debt. Today’s bright young things get themselves into college and rack up $100,000 or more of student loan debt. Or they buy a house and sign on for a mortgage. Their options to choose something meaningful to them as a career are severely hampered thereafter. NGOs don’t pay enough. Also, the increasing demands of work make it very difficult to find the time to be involved in civic activities.
The film ends on an upbeat note; the message is, Don’t let people talk you out of trying. How true. It’s so easy to be cynical about people’s good intentions, but sometimes people with good intentions succeed in making the world better. When’s the last time cynicism did that?
Trailer for the film: